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Sheikha Majda Al Sabah: Making a Difference in Mental Health
October 13, 2018, 2:55 pm
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Consider the last five conversations you had, did the subject of mental health come up? If you are anything like me, the answer would most likely be no. Now consider this, according to the World Health Organization, one in five individuals will experience a mental illness during their lifetime.

And so, if we are to assume that the last five conversations you had were with five different people, chances are that one of them has experienced a mental illness or will experience one in the future. Does that idea seem daunting to you?

The very subject of mental health is barricaded with negative connotations in most societies. However, preexisting misconceptions on this subject in a country like Kuwait have not prevented Sheikha Majda Al Sabah from using her platform to spread awareness about mental health through her pioneering project the ‘ASAP Initiative’.

“I started my business in 2007 as a home beauty service which grew into a beauty space and salon and then diversified into a standalone product line because I saw a need for products that cater to local hair and beauty needs. I am passionate about women’s ability to take care of themselves, as I believe that women are the backbone of any healthy society.

This has led me to champion talking openly about the burdens that most women face in their lives and their inability to ask for more help, especially in times of mental stress. I strongly believe in self-care and that beauty starts with a clear and peaceful mind and have dedicated a percentage of ASAP brand’s sales to the creation of the ASAP Initiative that is solely devoted to promoting mental health and wellness since October 2017. The ASAP Initiative is a private campaign that focuses on promoting mental health awareness, and supporting local, regional and international mental health campaigns, to challenge social and personal stigmas around this issue.

The Initiative is part of ASAP brand’s commitment to empowering individuals to be both beautiful and healthy.” While ASAP is a Kuwaiti company that caters to the Arab region, it has nobly allocated a percentage of its annual profits towards servicing the community and in supporting mental health awareness through removing societal stigma around mental health needs, increasing mental health acceptance, and encouraging help-seeking for mental health issues, especially those that are most common and most misunderstood like anxiety and depression. I admired Sheikha Majda’s dedication and commitment to a subject that most people avoided discussing entirely.

On the rare occasions where mental health is discussed, I find that the subject is riddled with misunderstandings and confusion. According to Sheikha Majda, “one of the worst and most common misconceptions when it comes to mental illness is the “snap out of it” response. As a person who has suffered from mental illness, I know the drill. You start talking to a friend about your problems. They listen and offer support, but eventually they start to talk about your attitude towards the problem.

“It’s all in your head” or “you need to move on” or “you’re making a big deal out of nothing”. The inability to “just get over it” is the main problem here! Another damaging misconception about mental illness is the idea that therapy leads to drug addiction if the condition requires medication.

People believe that all mental illness medications and drugs are alike and would get the person addicted to it for the rest of their lives which is so not true! Mental illness medications are like other physical condition medications and can be used effectively under medical supervision.” As Sheikha Majda rightfully pointed out earlier, common mental health conditions that most of us experience include anxiety and depression. While some of it may stem from personal or genetic factors, a lot of it might be induced from work-related stress.

I was curious on Sheikha Majda’s thoughts regarding the impact and responsibility employers have on their workers’ mental wellbeing. “I believe employers are required to accommodate mental illness exactly as legally required to accommodate any other disability or human rights protected ground. The duty to harmonize requires that employers make every reasonable effort to accommodate an employee who has a disability, to the point of undue hardship.

At ASAP, we have quarterly outings for the team to break the work stress and freshen up outside the work environment. In addition, we have an open-door policy, which guarantees the right of each team member to approach their supervisors and talk about anything that’s bothering them, having their problem solved and their concerns soothed.” Interestingly though, Arab societies like Kuwait tend to rely more on spiritual guidance for their ease of mind.

Some assume that by relying on psychotherapy, they are becoming less faithful. What were Sheikha Majda’s thoughts on this? “First, most psychologists already recognize religion and spirituality as important aspects of human diversity. However, being mentally ill is totally different than being spiritually uncomfortable. With awareness, education and knowledge of that difference, I ensure that we will have a wiser society and mindset where psychotherapy’s impact would be as effective and huge as a physical one.” Finally, and upon learning more about ASAP Initiative, I was keen to know about any upcoming events and activities.

“ASAP Initiative is attending The First International Mental Health Forum in Oman on the 5th and 6th of October, as the main keynote speaker. Sharing my story and journey to inspire many others facing similar challenges. In the middle of October, ASAP Initiative is hosting a 3-day workshop on how to handle trauma for psychiatrists, given by Dr. Lori Davis, clinical psychologist from New York. We also have another lecture about how to take care of your mental health at the American University of Kuwait. In February, we’re organizing a big event which aims to fight the stigma surrounding mental health in collaboration with a huge number of public figures from all fields and specialties.”

To learn more about ASAP Initiative, visit @asap_initiative on Instagram Nourah Al-Oseimi is a 25-year-old Kuwaiti who holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Nourah has worked in different places such as the Central Bank of Kuwait and the United Nations. She serves as a free-lance contributing writer to the Times Kuwait – Newsmagazine. Her column – Essentially Kuwaiti – will feature an in-depth look on exceptional young Kuwaitis and their efforts towards the realization of a New Kuwait.

To learn more about ASAP Initiative, visit @asap_initiative on Instagram

- By Nourah Al-Oseimi, Exclusive to The Times, Kuwait

Nourah Al-Oseimi is a 25-year-old Kuwaiti who holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Nourah has worked in different places such as the Central Bank of Kuwait and the United Nations. She serves as a free-lance contributing writer to the Times Kuwait – Newsmagazine. Her column – Essentially Kuwaiti – will feature an in-depth look on exceptional young Kuwaitis and their efforts towards the realization of a New Kuwait.  

 

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